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John Rudometkin, USC basketball All-American, succumbs to lung disease at 75

John Rudometkin, USC basketball All-American, succumbs to lung disease at 75
Former USC two-time All-American John Rudometkin walks with his wife, Carolyn, at their Newcastle home in 2010. (Robert Durell / For the Times)

John Rudometkin, a two-time All-American for USC’s basketball team in the early 1960s, died Tuesday in Newcastle, Calif., of chronic lung disease, his family and USC announced. He was 75.

Rudometkin was a center at 6 feet 6 inches, but he was a force much larger than his height. After coming to USC from Allan Hancock Junior College, he led the Trojans in scoring for three consecutive seasons and was a three-time team MVP, establishing a career scoring record of 1,484 points, a mark that stood for 23 years. His 831 rebounds were another school record at the time.

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With Rudometkin leading the way, USC won the 1961 Athletic Associates of Western Universities (AAWU) championship – the Trojans' last outright conference title in men's basketball.

The team's radio broadcaster at the time was Chick Hearn, who nicknamed Rudometkin "The Reckless Russian" because of his hard-charging style.

Rudometkin was a second-round draft choice by the New York Knicks who played in the NBA for three seasons. His playing career was cut short when non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was discovered near his heart and lungs, but he fought off the disease for five decades as he worked as a real estate investor, minister and motivational speaker.

He was inducted into the USC Hall of Fame in 2001. His No. 44 jersey was retired by the Trojans in 2010.

Rudometkin is survived by Carolyn, his wife of nearly 54 years, his sons, Ron, JD and Nathan, and four grandsons. A memorial service will be held Aug. 16 at 1 p.m. and Auburn Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Auburn, Calif. In lieu of flowers, his family requests donations go to World Vision (worldvision.org).

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